It’s Beginning to Look a lot like Christmas. . .


The mountains around Berchtesgaden, Germany.
The mountains around Berchtesgaden, Germany.

We’re creeping into mid-November, and signs of the coming season abound:  Christmas trees and Christkindlmarkt stands are beginning to pop up like daffodils in the early spring.  And like daffodils, they do this slowly, organically.  First, an empty market hut or two appear, then another and another.  A scattered tree here or there, lying on the ground one day.  Upright in a stand a few days later.  Eventually joined by others.  Until, about the last weekend of November, the Weihnachts markets will be in full bloom in their own fields–the market squares of towns across Germany, Austria, much of Europe.

Merchants may push the season early, but at this point even Mother Nature has joined the hubbub by pitching in frost and snow (in the early mornings, in the high hills).

Here are a few photos from the past few days around Salzburg, Austria, where signs of the season are unmistakable.

As we drove into the Alps, we began to see snow-covered hills:



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In the streets and alleys of Salzburg, some trees are up and preparations are being made for the market squares.  The empty booths will soon be filled with vendors peddling chocolates, waffles, gingerbreads, mulled wine (Gluhwein), traditional wooden Christmas baubles, cheeses, sausages, . . . the list is endless.




Preparations in Salzburg, on a foggy night.
Preparations in Salzburg, on a foggy night. The green huts will soon be stocked with gingerbread and mulled wine.

And Christmas trees are going up in Mirabell Gardens:


And at the edge of the city, Hellbrunn Palace (once home to the Hapsburg royalty) promises to burst into full Christmas bloom very soon.  I’m told that the palace (at center of the photo) has 24 or 25 windows on the façade that faces this market-row, and the windows will all have shutters pulled and wreathed in the days ahead, so that it may become an advent calendar, with one window to be opened each day of advent.

Hellbrunn Palace
Hellbrunn Palace

Watch this space in the weeks ahead:  I’ll post photos when the season is in full bloom.


Let’s Talk Turkey

We’re beginning the November wind-up to Thanksgiving, so let’s talk Turkey. . . with a twist.    The country, not the bird

These photos are from my travels in Turkey 15 years ago.  I pulled them from a box of negatives, held them up to the light to determine which were which, and scanned them on a rinkydink digital converter.  The images are still distinct, but not crisp. There’s just a bit of a haze to them, though you can still pick out the details.  (You may even find me lurking in a shadow, where’s-Waldo-esque, if you try.)

turkey 2 picmonk collage


I remember this castle and these sites vividly–we were on the Turkish Mediterranean.  But I can’t remember the name of the place.  It’s not on tip of my tongue.  It’s not even a lingering taste at the back of my throat.     It’s just gone: swallowed and digested by the intervening years.  I’d recognize it if you offered it up to me, but after an hour of racking my brain, I still don’t have the power to conjure it on my own.

How can we be so fickle to forget places we have loved and sights that left us awestruck?  Time is a notorious thief, and I have no name for these photos, but I remember.  A brilliant day by the sands of the Mediterranean Sea and under the gaze of the Taurus Mountains.  I haven’t forgotten how I felt.

Maybe recognition is more important than recollection anyway.  It carries that power of empathy–to remember how something felt, to feel connection to the past or the place or the person, even when the name has left you.

That’s a traveller’s power–the power of connection.  We can rely on our guidebooks for place names when we have to, but the ability to connect to the people or stand in awe of the beauty, well, we have to summon that ourselves.

Forced to choose, I’d keep the feeling over the catalog of names any day:  better a fickle mind than a fickle heart.


*And, as a post script:  my travel guidebook has come the the rescue.  The castle is at Anamur, Turkey.

Here are a  few more photos from Turkey.  (More to come in the months ahead, when I get old photo negatives converted to digital.)

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On the "Antik Road" in Cappadocia.
On the “Antik Road” in Cappadocia.

This last photo is an especially fond memory–and I can recall the details.  When I have more time, I’ll bring it back out and tell you the story.   For now, I must say “Gule, gule” (goodbye).